Architecture/Interior Design/Furniture: McIntosh Poris Associates
Michael Poris, AIA, Principal
Laurie Hughet-Hiller, AIA, Associate/Project Manager
Clara Mariotti, Designer
Elizabeth Swallow, Interior Designer
Charlene Erickson, Interior Designer
Client: Restauranteur Jeremy Sasson of Heirloom Hospitality
Owner: Qualitas Primi, LLC
Size: 2 floors; 9,256 square feet (4,938-square-foot main level, 4,318-square-foot lower level)
Budget: $3.5 million
Site: The 11-story Capitol Park Building, built in 1912 by Leonard B. Willeke, blends Chicago School architecture with Beaux-Arts decorative designs. It was originally home to a butcher, grocer, and a variety of tenants throughout the years, including the White Room Studios where musicians Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock, and Bob Seger recorded their hits. As Detroit experienced an economic downturn, tenants left the building and the structure became increasingly vacant. By 2009, the last business, a liquor store on the first floor, was gone and the building was sealed up and abandoned.
In 2016, the building was purchased by Grand Rapids, MI, developer Richard Karp and work crews began renovating the structure into the Capitol Park Lofts, a 63-unit residential complex. The project includes the Prime + Proper restaurant on the ground floor and lower level, and a floor of office spaces above. The surrounding Capitol Park neighborhood is being slowly revived with similar developments, including apartments, restaurants, and a hotel.
Program: Prime + Proper features distinguishing ground-floor and lower-level architectural elements that have been preserved and remodeled into distinctive spaces. The restaurant’s main level features a bar area, dining room, open kitchen, chef’s table, butcher counter, raw seafood display, and pastry station, while the lower level includes the dry aging room, prep kitchen, bathrooms, and private dining room. Patio dining is available outdoors. McIntosh Poris Associates is responsible for the architecture, interior design, and custom furniture to create a sophisticated dining atmosphere and modern interpretation of the classic steakhouse.
Design: McIntosh Poris Associates designed Prime + Proper to reinterpret classic steakhouse traditions with modern luxury within a fine dining experience on two floors of a remodeled 1912 building in Detroit’s Capitol Park Historic District. Reflecting the proprietor’s concept of “prime meats and proper service,” the new establishment is arranged into distinctive spaces within the angular L-shaped interior. The main level features a bar area and a dining room with groups of booths and banquets that create intimate spaces for conversation. The open kitchen showcases a custom-built wood-burning grill, glass-enclosed butcher counter, raw seafood bar, pastry station, and wine displays to allow the cuisine to be part of the décor. The mostly black-and-white décor is accented with bronze details and rich finishes inspired by Art Deco designs of the past century to convey a luxe feeling.
From the street, patrons enter under a new steel canopy supporting metal letters spelling out the name of the restaurant. The canopy and graphics were designed by the architect and approved by city preservationists as compatible with the historic building. New operable storefront windows stretching along the street frontage provide views of Capitol Park from the 140 seats inside and swing out during warmer months to open the interior to the streetscape, where an additional 77 seats are provided outdoors.
Near the entrance, the animal hide-faced bar features a quartz countertop simulating onyx to complement the marble-tiled floor. The hexagon pattern of the floor tiles in the bar and entryway is based on the Prime + Proper logo and repeated on the entrance door handles, bar stool arms, and steak knives.
In the main dining room, brass tables are topped with porcelain made to simulate marble. The tufted banquettes along the windows are upholstered with distressed leather. The dining room furniture and swing-arm lighting are custom designed by the architect, who referenced vintage pieces with a modern feeling. Graphic black-and-white burnout velvet arm chairs, along with leather, hair-on-hide, and chenille upholstered booths and banquettes are combined with imported ceiling lighting fixtures, marble tiling, and wood flooring to provide an energetic, glamorous setting.
Historic preservation requirements for the building mandated that the existing columns and ceiling beams remain intact and be expressed in the remodeled space. Inserting the necessary ductwork to heat and cool the space without removing the beams presented a challenge. The architect found a solution by creating large enclosures around the beams to conceal the equipment and emphasize the structure.
Prime + Proper’s two floors are connected by the original, 100-year-old grand marble staircase that was restored along with its bronze railing. The stairs lead to the lower level past original wall panels that were repaired, painted, and fitted with smoked mirrors. A second staircase connecting to an upper floor was closed off, but left in place to provide patrons a place for Instagram moments along the stairs.
The lower level includes a 300-square-foot dry aging room that features pink Himalayan sea salt-lined walls within a marine-grade stainless-steel enclosure. Diners are welcome to view steaks in this chamber to appreciate the variety and quality of the cuts of meats prepared and served. The special chef’s table is tucked into a nook next to wine storage and arranged with chairs and a leather sofa. This niche is illuminated by a brass chandelier and showcases walls lined with protruding pieces of butcher block, the same wood used to cut the steaks served in the restaurant.
Led by Executive Chef Ryan Prentiss, Prime + Proper aims to push the limits of guest expectations in cuisine, drink, service, and style. Utilizing classic French techniques, while incorporating modern, international elements in meat, duck, salad, raw bar, and seafood dishes, Prentiss presents a steakhouse menu that includes elevated offerings of classic accoutrements.
Firm: McIntosh Poris Associates is a full-service architecture, interiors, and urban design firm. Founded in 1994 by Michael Poris, AIA, and the late Douglas McIntosh, the firm transforms buildings, communities, and urban centers with architecture created through dialogue. Since 1994, McIntosh Poris Associates has won more than 100 awards for single- and multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial, hospitality, and arts projects throughout Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan, New York, and Ontario for private, public, and non-profit clients.
Affiliates: Construction Manager: Milo Building Company
MEP Engineer: MA Engineering
Food Service Design: Great Lakes Hotel Supply Co.
Photographer: Michelle & Chris Gerard